11 August 2010

Aug 11

Reference links:
Old Testament

New book means overview time! Let's see what Understanding the Bible has to say:
Appointed governor of postexilic Judah by Emperor Artaxerxes, Nehemiah oversees the rebuilding of Judah. After promulgating a version of the Mosaic Torah compiled and edited during the Babylonian exile (perhaps the final form of today's Pentateuch) the priest Ezra institutes an atonement ceremony. A report of Nehemiah's reforming zeal, enforcing Sabbath-keeping and the ban on foreign marriage, concludes the book. 
Harris also says,
Originally combined with Ezra, the Book of Nehemiah enlarges our picture of conditions in postexilic Judah and Jerusalem.
The Wikipedia article expands on what it means to say that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally combined,
A work ascribed to Nehemiah, but bearing in some canons the title Esdras II. or Esdras III., having been attributed to Ezra on the ground that Nehemiah's self-assertion deserved some punishment (Sanh. 93b), or because, having ordinarily been written on the same scroll with the Book of Ezra, it came to be regarded as an appendix to it.
Based on this, I think the situation is that Ezra and Nehemiah were often considered one book because of their closely related subject matter and the fact that they were often written on one scroll, but neither tradition nor modern scholarship ascribe both to the same author.

Onward to today's reading! Nehemiah shows great concern for the fate of Jerusalem and gets permission from Artaxerxes to go and rebuild Jerusalem. Because Nehemiah has found favor in the king's eyes in his role as cup bearer, Artaxerxes gave him permission and resources to carry out his plan.

Quick side note, Artaxerxes is both fun and difficult to type. Artaxerxes! Artaxerxes! ... And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem and finds the city in shambles. His plans to rebuild the city wall meet disapproval from Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gershem who appear to be officials of some sort. Despite their disapproval, Nehemiah gathers people to start rebuilding the wall.

What follows is essentially yet another list, this time disguised as prose. The people working on the wall are listed in conjunction with what part they were working to rebuild. Although, as I said, this is essentially a list in very thin disguise, it does include some interesting details. First, the different gates and towers in the city walls had interesting names. As a sample: the Sheep Gate, the Fish Gate, the Tower of the Ovens, and the Dung Gate.

Also interesting is that women, at least some women, were working side-by-side with the men:
Shallum son of Hallohesh and his daughters repaired the next section.
New Testament

Today talks about marriage. Marriage is for the weak. If people were awesome (like Paul) they would remain unmarried (like Paul). But since people are weak, they are allowed to marry lest they do even worse things.

This reading then goes on to talk about the relationship between spouses. The most interesting thing about this passage is the near absolute symmetry used in the language describing the relationship of a woman to her husband and a man to his wife.
But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife. [implied symmetry]
If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage.
Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?
Because the letters known to be genuine Pauline letters often stress equality, as above and in other places such as the well known Galatians verse, the lack of such equality in the pastoral letters are one of the many strands of evidence that lead most scholars to believe that they were not written by Paul.

Psalms and Proverbs

Not a bad proverb:
Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
and evil actions are all sin.